Matthew R. Stover
Everyday Chemical Reactions to Get Students Excited About Science
Whenever science is mentioned - especially chemistry - most of our minds go to dissections and the ubiquitous vinegar-and-baking-soda volcano. While these work as impressive - and occasionally vomit-inducing - ways to study science, it doesn’t consider the need for the application to the daily lives of our students. Science is all around us, especially chemical reactions, and pointing this out to students will expand their recognition and appreciation for the concepts you’re working on teaching.
Looking for those hallmarks of chemical reactions - temperature or color change, odor, gas production, or precipitate formation - can guide students in recognizing these changes in their everyday lives.
Internal Chemical Reactions - Digestion
Your digestive system is constantly churning and working to create thousands of chemical reactions to break down what you consume into simpler molecules. Most students recognize hydrochloric acid as supremely dangerous in the chemistry lab, but it’s working in your stomach to process your meals. This can also lend itself to other areas of study, such as researching why hydrochloric acid doesn’t burn a hole in your stomach like it might to objects in the chemistry lab.
Kitchen Chemistry - Cooking & Baking
Most students don’t see the connection between science and food, but the application of heat and liquid forms the basis of a chemical reaction. While most kitchen ingredients are used to wow and amaze, like combining oil and water, you need a bit more oomph for a chemical reaction. Cooking eggs, heating sugar, searing meat, and baking a cake all contain chemical reactions that can be studied by even the smallest scientist to recognize the changes that take place.
Acid vs. Base - Neutralization in our Mouths
We don’t think of our mouths as particularly chemical, but chemical reactions are working to keep us healthy throughout the day. When you eat sugary foods, the mouth is forced to neutralize its effect on the pH of your saliva by producing acid. This is why brushing your teeth in the morning is so essential - the basic nature of toothpaste neutralizes the acid produced throughout the night while we sleep. Brushing teeth isn’t just hygienic - it’s scientific!
Pointing out the real-world facts around basic subjects connects students to the world at large and allows them to expand the way in which they view their world. It encourages curiosity and makes learning that much more exciting when it’s relatable.